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Full text of "My Country And My People"

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE                   393

deplorably backward. For the human form is made sub-
servient to the forms of nature. If there is any appreciation of
the female human form as such, we see no traces of it in paint-
ing. Ku K'aichih's and Ch'iu Shihchou's female forms suggest,
not the beauties of their bodies but the lines of the winds and
the waves. For this worship of the human body, especially of
the female body, seems to me to be the most singular character-
istic of Western art. The most singular contrast between
Chinese and Western art is the difference in the source of
inspiration, which is nature itself for the East and the female
form for the West. Nothing strikes a Chinese mind as being
more grotesque than that a female figure should be labelled
"Contemplation" or that a nude bathing girl should be made
to represent "September Morn." To-day many Chinese are
still unable to reconcile themselves to the fact that Western
civilization requires actual living "models," stripped and
placed before one's eyes, to be stared at daily for two hours at
a time, before one can learn even the first essentials of painting.
Of course there are also many Westerners who are willing only
to hang Whistler's "My Mother" above their mantelpiece,
and who do not dare so much as contemplate a female figure
called "Contemplation." There is still to-day a large pro-
portion of English and American society who apologize for
French pictures in their flats by saying that the room is rented
furnished, and who do not know what to do with a Viennese
porcelain doll that some of their friends have presented them
for Christmas, They generally banish the whole topic from a
conversation by calling these things "art," and the ones who
made then "crazy artists." Nevertheless, the fact remains that
orthodox Western painting is Dionysian in its origin and
inspiration, and that the Western painter seems unable to see
anything without a naked, or nearly naked, human body in
it. Whereas the Chinese painter symbolizes spring by a fat and
well-shaped partridge, the Western painter symbolizes it by
a dancing nymph with a faun chasing after her. And whereas
the Chinese painter can delight in the fine lines of a cicada's
wings and in the full limbs of the cricket, the grasshopper and
the frog, and the Chinese scholar can daily contemplate such
pictures on his wall with continual delight, the Western painter